tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC February 7, 2013 7:00pm-8:00pm EST
"hardball" starts right now. >> defending the drones, let's play "hardball" ♪ good evening. i'm michael smerconish in for chris matthews. secrets and spies. the man who is at the center of the national debate over the targeted killing of americans overseas has been in the hot seat on capitol hill. among other things, john brennan coordinates the kill list, and so his confirmation hearing to become head of the cia is drawing an unusual amount of interest and attention. we'll get to what he said and the reaction at the top of the show. also, more and more people
on the right are asking, who is karl rove and why should we listen to him anymore? rove wants electable republicans nominated. the tea partiers want their people in, real right wingers, and they're trashing rove and establishment republicans in the process. plus, you've probably heard that chuck hagel once said the following, quote, the jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. i'm not an israeli senator. i'm a united states senator. but what you probably haven't heard is the rest of that interview and why some people who know what hagel really said aren't angry with him at all. and why is chris christie talking so much about his weight? maybe because he wants to talk about it on his terms, and why might that be? because perhaps he's running for president. finally, the recently fired dick morris admits he was wrong at the top of his lungs last november. that's fine, but was he really wrong in predicting a romney landslide or did he know what was coming and decide that's what fox viewers wanted to hear? we begin with the debate
over the drones. robin wright is a scholar at the woodrow wilson center. "newsweek's" dan klaidman is the author of "kill or capture." john brennan's confirmation hearing this afternoon started out with some fireworks. anti-war protesters interrupted the proceedings five times accusing the cia of causing huge amounts of collateral damage with drone strikes. the committee's chair, dianne feinstein, eventually cleared the room. later, brennan cited the protesters when he addressed what he called a misperception about the goal of the drone strikes. let's listen. >> i think there is a misimpression on the part of some american people who believe that we take strikes to punish terrorists for past transgressions. nothing could be further from the truth. we only take such actions as a last resort to save lives when there's no other alternative to taking an action that's going to mitigate that threat.
so we need to make sure there is an understanding, and the people that were standing up here today, i think they really have a misunderstanding of what we do as a government and the care that we take and the agony that we go through to make sure that we do not have any collateral injuries or deaths. >> robin, when he described this as a last resort to save lives, one reaction i had is, among the lives we save when we use drones are those of troops who otherwise would be going into harm's way. >> absolutely. i lived in beirut when jesse jackson had to hold his nose and go to damascus to beg for the release of an american pilot who had been shot down by the syrians. drones are clearly the wave of the future because they save american lives, but they're also effective for surveillance. they have far greater use than simply the kind of fighters we've used, and we actually also use them for domestic purposes. they were reportedly used in the case of the 5-year-old who was held in alabama. they have been used for weather. there are an estimated 8,000
drones, so although it's part of the most secret program, military program, we have, there are also other uses. >> which starts to frighten folks domestically. good thing with the outcome of that alabama case, but some folks think their civil liberties are about to be infringed upon at home. dan, i know from your reporting and the book you wrote, there was more debate within this administration about the transparency aspect of it than there was whether they would engage in a drone program. explain that. >> well, that's exactly right, and that comes up significantly in the case of anwar al awlaki, the american citizen and yemeni member of al qaeda in the arabian peninsula in yemen who we killed, the united states government killed. in that particular case the president really didn't have any qualms about going after him. he thought al awlaki was a
senior member of an enemy force who was bent on attacking america and that it would be a lawful act of war. the real debate inside the administration surrounded this question of whether they ought to talk publicly about the legal rationale, the justification for going after an american citizen, and there was a lot of debate about it. ultimately the decision was not to release the justice department legal opinion -- that's obviously been in the news a lot this week -- and instead to send out the attorney general to give a speech laying out some of that. but the actual underlying act itself of killing an american citizen was not something that this president lost a lot of sleep over. >> all right. there might not have been debate within the white house, but let's run through some of the criticisms that the drones have received. here is what stanley mcchrystal, the former commander of forces in afghanistan, told reuters last month. quote, the resentment created by
american use of unmanned strikes is much greater than the average american appreciates. they are hated on a visceral level, even by people who have never seen one or seen the effects of one. another point, in "the l.a. times" today, columnist carol williams wrote, quote, imagine if north korea or iran or venezuela deployed thousands of unmanned surveillance aircraft in search of earthbound enemies, a swarm of robotic hunters armed with lethal weaponry and their government's go-head to exterminate targets. are either of those a convincing argument for you? >> there are supposedly 70 countries that have some kind of drone technology. but the drone is the instrument of the 21st century when it comes to air power, and that's a reality. the problem comes down to really the morality, and the white house has put out three criteria, including is it an imminent threat? if it were delayed, would it cause greater risk? and is there no other alternative? the problem is those always involve subjective judgments. it's the same thing as firing a gun. it's in the eyes of the person who holds the weapon, and it
isn't always a balanced perception, and the truth is that the drones have generated enormous backlash in pakistan particularly, where the united states has used them the most, as well as in yemen, the second highest number of targets. >> dan, robin mentions the morality of it. i hear often from radio listeners who sense a hypocrisy in that they see the obama administration being critical of harsh interrogation methods but going along with the drone program. is there some inherent hypocrisy in that? >> well, there was an interesting statistic in the first year of the obama administration. i think -- or perhaps over the first couple of years in the administration. he authorized more drone strikes and more people were killed in drone strikes that he authorized than the total number of people that had before passed through guantanamo bay. that crystallizes that hypocrisy people talk about. >> you could also argue that we know drone strikes work.
you know, the jury still seems like it's out with regard to harsh interrogation methods, but drone strikes work. >> in terms of the morality, you know, if you determine that there are threats out there, there are bad guys that you need to take off the battlefield but you can't go there, you can't go to pakistan, you can't go to certain places, then what alternative do you have if you can't capture them? in other words, once you have detained suspected terrorists, there are all sorts of international laws, the laws of war, the geneva conventions that say you can't touch the person, you can't, you know, punch the person in the nose let alone kill the person -- >> on this subject of torture, john brennan was a top official at the cia when the agency was involved with waterboarding detainees. here is what he told senators today when asked about his role in the program. >> i was aware of the program. i was cc'd on some of the documents, but i had no oversight of it. i had expressed my personal
objections and views to my -- some agency colleagues about certain of those eits such as waterboarding, nudity, and others where i professed my personal objections, but i did not try to stop it because it was something that was being done in a different part of the agency under the authority of others. >> interestingly, later brennan refused to label waterboarding torture under questioning from senator carl levin. >> my question is this, in your opinion, does waterboarding constitute torture? >> the attorney general has referred to waterboarding as torture. the attorney general, premiere law enforcement officer and lawyer of this country. and as you well know and as we have had the discussion, senator, the term torture has a lot of legal and political implications. >> do you have a personal opinion as to whether
waterboarding is torture? >> i have a personal opinion it's something that is reprehensible and should not be done. >> back in 2007 he told cbs that the interrogation program had provided some useful information. >> there has been a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has, in fact, used against the real hard core terrorists. it has saved lives. >> inconsistencies, robin, in what you just heard? is that a consistent narrative from mr. brennan? >> not completely obviously, saying sometimes it produces information and sometimes it isn't -- >> not enough to derail this nomination. >> i don't think so. i think brennan probably compared with hagel is going to be a breeze to get through, but these are issues. and this is what this testimony actually illustrates, that really tug at the heartstrings of americans. we have had a traumatic decade. we have come away questioning tactics of torture, the use of guantanamo bay. the legal justification not fully understood. the drone issue still not fully explained because it's so secret. there's still a lot the american public is struggling to
understand. >> dan, one reaction that i have relative to the whole standard of when we could take out even an american is, you know, be careful before you make your decision based on the occupant of the white house because precedent is being set here, and whatever the drill might be for today could apply to president clinton in 2016. it could apply to president rubio in 2017 i guess i should say. >> you're exactly right, michael. i think this president actually is fairly sensitive to precedent. you know, it's interesting, he has sort of supreme confidence in his own ability to handle power well and responsibly. he's less confident about those who would come after him, and that's part of the reason that he has sort of tasked john brennan to put together what brennan has called a playbook to kind of codify and institutionalize the -- >> a set of standards. >> -- and procedures for targeted killing.
it will be interesting to see how he does that when he's at the helm of the cia. >> thank you, dan and robin. we appreciate you being here. coming up, the republicans' civil war. it's karl rove against the tea party, and democrats, they couldn't be happier. this is "hardball," the place for politics. [ male announcer ] rocky had no idea why dawn was gone for so long... ...but he'd wait for her forever, for any reason, and would always be there with the biggest welcome home. for a love this strong, dawn only feeds him iams. compared to other leading brands, it has 50% more animal protein. ...to help keep rocky's body as strong as a love that never fades... if he ever lets her leave again. iams. keep love strong. yeah. then how'd i get this...
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establishment. >> welcome back to "hardball." at his peak he was called bush's brain and the architect, but today our own howard fineman wrote, karl rove is done. rove's new effort to back conservative candidates who he thinks can win has incited a civil war. gop bigwigs like rove who would like to move past primaries that brought them losses and the likes of o'donnell, angle, akin, and mourdock. tea party types are outraged that rove would try to insert himself into the democratic process. matt kibbe is president of the tea party group freedomworks. matt, thanks for being here. would you rather win primaries or general elections, and isn't that what this is all about? >> well, i think i want to win both, and the definition of a competitive candidate, the conservative that can win, is very much up for reinterpretation when rove gets involved because, remember, he thought arlen specter was the most conservative man for the job in pennsylvania. he thought charlie crist was in florida.
he thought david dewhurst was in texas, and our view is if you can bind a set of values and the ability to communicate and to run a statewide campaign, that's how we repopulate the republican party. i think karl rove is headed in the wrong direction. >> to use a basketball analysis, couldn't one argue that karl rove's losses were three-pointers, they were tough shots, and the tea party losses were layups? christine o'donnell in delaware, that was a layup for mike cassell had he captured the gop nomination. >> well, i mean, you're cherry picking because nobody bats a thousand, to use another sports analogy. certainly the tea party hasn't
batted a thousand, but if you look at who the young, vibrant, authentic rock stars of the republican party are, they're guys like tim scott. tim scott wouldn't have won his first congressional election if we'd have applied this status quo litmus test. we would have gone with the establishment guy. we wouldn't have marco rubio to run in 2016. we wouldn't have rand paul, wouldn't have mike lee. if you look at who republicans get excited about, who is actually putting ideas on the table and who is the most credible challenger to hillary clinton in 2016, it's our guys, not karl rove's guys. >> let me give you a tangible example of the future from just today's newspaper. a candidate that perhaps karl rove will steer away from. paul broun, the georgia congressman running to replace saxby chambliss, and "the times" pointed out today, quote, mr. broun, a physician on the house science, space, and technology committee, attracted attention last fall for saying that, quote, evolution, embryology, and the big bang theory, all of that is lies straight from the pit of hell. i'll bet that plays well in his
congressional district, but my hunch is that's not playing well even in a conservative state like georgia when you're talking statewide in the general. what do you say? >> well, of course, paul is going to get a lot of competition in that primary fight. you're going to be looking at guys like tom price and tom graves who have an incredibly strong record of fiscal conservatism. i think the core of the tea party, remember, is not social issues, it's not abortion, it's not immigration, it's not these other things. it's whether or not we should spend money we don't have. it's whether or not the government should live within
its means. that's how the candidates that have been successful have won, and i do think there's a message discipline that needs to be encouraged in our primary system, but you don't get that by choosing from the top down. you have to let the process work itself out. we believe in competition. we believe in open-ended, bottom-up democratic processes, and that's what you're going to see in georgia, and we're going to find the right candidate. >> i take it it's not broun. you're not making the commitment one way or the other to him. >> we're not making a commitment to anyone. we're doing a candidate forum in a couple weeks to see what all of the candidates have to say with no preconditions and let grassroots activists in georgia give us the feedback to tell us whether or not we should get involved, how we should get involved, and who they think the best guy for that job is. >> karl rove claimed on fox earlier this week that he wasn't just about protecting incumbent candidates. he was about winning. listen to this. >> our job is not to protect incumbents, it's to win races by stopping the practice of giving away some of these seats like we did in missouri and in indiana this past year, and that may mean telling the incumbent republican that if he's going to be in the race, he shouldn't expect any funds from crossroads in the general election. if some people think the best we can do is todd mourdock -- todd akin and richard mourdock, they're wrong. we need to get better conservative candidates and win. >> when i saw that tape, i said to myself it reminded me of a
lecture first year of college in a government class. in fact, i'll give a shout out, dr. frank colin who said this. he said parties exist for one purpose, to win. i think that's true if you think about it for the republican or democratic party. that's not necessarily the case for tea party activists. you're there to assert an purpose, to win. i think that's true if you think about it for the republican or democratic party. that's not necessarily the case for tea party activists. you're there to assert an ideology. the gop is not there for that purpose. do you agree with that? >> i agree with that. both political parties are all about winning, and sometimes they put ideas aside to pursue political expediency. that's not what we're about, but i would argue that standing for something and being authentic on those issues works both for
republicans on our sets of issues and for democrats on their sets of issues, and the progressives have done a very impressive job of taking over the democratic party. we're just trying to put some ideas back in the republican party. >> right. but you can stand for things that don't necessarily line neatly up in some faux ideological box as being liberal or progressive or conservative, isn't that the problem? that everything has become a litmus test at both ends? >> i don't know. there's practicality on tactics, but we're not going to negotiate on whether or not we should balance the budget, and to go back to rove's basic point, he was the guy that tried to convince all of us that mitt romney was the most electable. how did that turn out? >> rush limbaugh sided, you'll be happy to know this if you don't already, with the tea party this week arguing that rove's plan will bring in moderate candidates. here is what he said. >> the establishment republicans, the inside the beltway establishment types, remember, these are the people, they supported charlie crist over marco rubio. these are the brains, these are the guys that are going to protect the republican party from you. they also opposed rand paul. and, remember, they supported arlen specter over pat toomey and on and on. there are countless examples. the bottom line is they don't have any better record at
picking winners than the, quote, unquote, amateur tea party types do. and even when they pick winners, what do we end up winning? we get squishy republican moderates. >> also with us is willie brown, the former mayor of san francisco. mayor, weigh in on this. i will ask you to do something that won't come naturally to you. put on a hat for the different side of the aisle and be the politician and advise them on which path should they now travel? >> they really should travel the path of selecting quality candidates, period, without reference to their base philosophy. do not require candidates to pledge a certain kind of commitment on taxes. do not require candidates to pledge a certain kind of commitment on something that's inconsistent with good judgment. leave candidates with the ability to do what's right.
urge them to do what's right. you will select people who have those kind of qualities and you'll end up winning. if not, you're going to end up losing just as the republicans did the last time around. >> you would think this is good news for democrats who are watching what's taking place on the gop side of the aisle, this notion that karl rove could fund and field slates of candidates that would have a different philosophy than mr. kibbe and the tea party folks. >> well, i don't think that karl rove is going to be able to be successful independent of other kinds of relationships. you literally cannot start a third party movement within a party and think you can be successful. he's already proven that he can blow a whole lot of dough on a
whole lot of people and lose elections. that's not good. it would be just as bad if democrats suddenly decided they wanted to all be progressive. they wanted to all sign on to certain kinds of things. mr. obama has been consistent. he is not owned by the left wing of the democratic party. he's not owned by the conservative wing of the democratic party. he's not owned by the moderate wing of the democratic party. he's not owned by organized labor. he's not owned by all of those who are into conservation activities. he has presented an opportunity for the public to see someone who says, i'm going to represent the best interests of everybody, and -- >> thank you for being here. mayor, i'm sorry we're cut short. we're glad we got you in her. up next, fox news let's go of another reality challenged pundit, dick morris. he now admits he was wrong, quote, at the top of his lungs
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back to "hardball." now to the "sideshow." first it was sarah palin and now dick morris. both have had a parting of the ways with fox news in the form of their contracts not being renewed. a quick refresher of where dick morris was one day before the election. >> romney will win by a very large margin, a landslide, if you will. i believe he'll win by more than five points in the popular vote. i think he'll get 325 electoral votes. >> now, at cnn last night, morris addressed his off-target predictions and the end of his self-described marriage with fox. >> i think i was wrong at the top of my lungs, but i'm being made a poster child for that. >> do you resent the decision? >> look, fox has given me the
opportunity of a lifetime. 15 years, 3,000 interviews, and at some point the great marriage has to come to an end. the divorce isn't final, but i am seeing other people. >> poster child for being wrong at the top of your lungs. something to add to the resume. also, what have arizona republicans not learned since the election? the 2010 analysis showed that almost 10% of the state's residents speaks limited english, but that's not stopping state representative steve smith from pushing his new proposal to ban state agencies from sending out mailings in any language except english. he calls it a cost-cutting measure, but others say it's a violation of the civil rights act. one exception, voting materials can still be mailed out in other languages, though smith's own maricopa county doesn't have the best track record there. the spanish version of an
election notice last year listed november 8 as election day. that's two days after the election really occurred. finally, stephen colbert kind of, sort of avoids any conflict of interest issues while letting us know that his sister is running for congress in south carolina. and he offers advice to her potential opponents. >> as a broadcast journalist, i'm obligated to maintain pure objectivity. it doesn't matter that my sister is intelligent, hard working, compassionate, and dedicated to the people of south carolina. besides, i'm not sure i can support her because she is running as a democrat. i take that as a personal affront and, two, there are so many great choices on the republican side. i am leaning toward actual candidate and former governor of the appalachian trail, mark sanford. you see i'm a family values conservative, and mark, he just seems so steady. quick advice for any of you republicans out there who might end up in a debate with my big
sister, this is how i used to win a lot of arguments with her when i was a kid. after she makes a good point, repeat it back to her in a dumb voice like this. oh, social security is a public trust to those who paid into it for their entire working lives. >> stephen colbert has made a name for himself in south carolina politics. he was the top pick to take over jim demint's senate seat in a december ppp poll. now, an interesting conundrum about mark sanford. there's no shortage of material for sanford centric attack ads starting with his pretend hike in the appalachians while he was having an affair with a woman in argentina. here is the question, how much higher can his negatives be driven and do people already know everything there is to loath about him rendering future negative ads less effective than they otherwise might be? sanford's unfavorability among south carolina voters was at 53%
in that december ppp poll. not the best way to kick off a campaign. up next, the truth about chuck hagel and his inartful comments about the jewish lobby. you're watching "hardball," the place for politics. [ male announcer ] wouldn't it be cool if we took the nissan altima and reimagined nearly everything in it? gave it greater horsepower and class-leading 38 mpg highway... advanced headlights... and zero gravity seats? yeah, that would be cool. introducing the completely reimagined nissan altima. it's our most innovative altima ever. nissan. innovation that excites. ♪ pretty sweet, huh? cute. but don't you have any apps on your phone that can make your life easier?
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i'm craig melvin. preparations are under way ahead of the major blizzard about to storm the northeast. schools across the region will be closed. christopher dorner, the ex-lapd cop. authorities say his pick-up truck has been found. william cowan has been sworn in as senator of massachusetts. back to "hardball."
♪ were you correct or incorrect when you said that the surge would be the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since vietnam? were you correct or incorrect? >> my -- >> yes or no. >> my reference to -- >> are you answering the question, senator hagel? the question is were you right or wrong? that's a pretty straightforward question. >> well -- >> i would like to answer whether you were right or wrong and then you are free to elaborate. >> well, i'm not going to give you a yes or no answer -- >> well, let the record show that you refuse to answer that question. now please go ahead. >> welcome back to "hardball." that was senator john mccain grilling his old friend chuck hagel last week at hagel's confirmation hearing. the senate armed services committee was supposed to vote today on hagel's nomination to head the pentagon, but that vote has been postponed after
republicans said they hadn't received sufficient information about hagel's financial records and specifically about any payments he's received from foreign sources. that's an odd hurdle given that republicans never seem concerned about foreign revenue sources when it came to nominees from george w. bush. one democratic official working on the hagel nomination told politico, quote, what they're asking is unprecedented, and it's clear that it's information that he's unable to provide. hagel says he can't provide it because it would violate confidentiality of the boards that he serves on. of course, critics say this is about more than incomplete financial records. so why are republicans really holding up hagel's nomination? aaron david miller is vice president for new initiatives at the woodrow wilson center. he has served as an adviser on the middle east to both democratic and republican secretaries of state. and joe klein is a columnist for "time" magazine. gentlemen, buzz feed pointed out
that there seems to be a new and unfair standard being placed on chuck hagel as bush era nominees weren't pressed on their foreign ties. quote, condoleezza rice, donald rumsfeld, paul o'neill, and henry paulson all had connections to foreign entities that paid them. chevron, on whose board rice sat, even named an oil tanker after her. yet these nominees weren't asked to make the same kind of disclosures that are being demanded of hagel. joe klein, what's going on? >> i think it's about two "i"s, israel and iran. the republican base is not very happy with hagel's moderate, realistic positions on those issues, and so the senators are reacting to that. >> the hearing wasn't pretty, but nor was it really effective in torpedoing his nomination. do you agree? >> i thought it was dreadful on all sides. it was just an embarrassment. >> when we talk about the jewish lobby and the quote, we have the individual here to whom he actually said those words. aaron, what was the context? >> well, i'm sure chuck hagel thinks no good deed goes
unpunished. i only met him once. he was kind enough to give me an interview. i think he regrets using that term, jewish lobby. i don't use it because it's inexact to a degree and politics is about addition, not subtraction, and people stopped listening when you use those kinds of terms. but the reality is chuck hagel simply acknowledged something that few senators and representatives are prepared to acknowledge. that the pro-israeli community has a powerful voice in the united states. not a veto. he just expressed himself in a way that few senators and representatives do, and i admire that clarity and that honesty. i think he may not be a defense intellectual. he may not have the broad management experience of some of our previous secretaries of defense, but he's not an ideologue. he will give the president sober advice about how, when, and why we should project our military force abroad. >> and as a former enlisted man, he will be able to relate to the
tens of thousands of young troops who are being demobilized over the next few years and are coming home with some real problems and with a need for jobs and housing and other things like that. >> from the very start republicans warned they would try to make hagel seem like an anti-semite. look at what one republican aide told "the weekly standard." this was back in december. quote, send us hagel, and we will make sure every american knows he is an anti-semite. we was referring to this quote, and it's gotten outsized attention since hagel was floated as the nominee. it comes from the interview, aaron, that you did back in 2006 for your book "the much too promised land." most people only highlight a couple words. the jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. here is the quote in context from the audio of your interview. >> the political reality is that you intimidate -- well, not you, but the jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here, and, again, i have always argued against some of the dumb things they do because i don't think
it's in the interest of israel. i just don't think it's smart for israel. now, everyone has a right to lobby. that's as it should be. and come see your senator, your congressman. if you can get the guy to sign your letter, great, wonderful. >> aaron, was that an ah-ha moment for you? when he said those words to you, did you say, holy smokes, listen to what this guy just told me, and he's in the u.s. senate? >> michael, i have heard a lot, been a negotiator, i have heard a lot. i try to put things in context, and i put that in context as well. this man is not an anti-semite, not an enemy of the state of israel. he believes in a special relationship with israel. he told me so. he just doesn't believe in an exclusive relationship. that is to say he's prepared to acknowledge that there are issues on which close allies, and we are very close to the israelis, may have disagreements and maybe even fundamental
agreements. that, frankly, is common sense. >> the terms of this conversation are being set by a group of extremists in this country. aaron just called it the pro-israel lobby. i'm pro-israel, but i'm not in favor of the positions that these extreme supporters take. >> did lindsey graham make his point for him in the way he browbeat him? >> yes, of course he did. it, in fact, is among the stupid things that the israel lobby has wanted senators to do is to have these expressions of anger at iran or the palestinians or whomever. that all should go through the president. >> wish we had more time. thank you, joe klein and aaron miller. we appreciate you both. up next, why is chris christie talking so much about his weight? here is a hint, perhaps he's thinking hard about running for president. we'll deal with that next. this is "hardball," the place for politics. so now i can be in the scene. advair is clinically proven to help significantly improve lung function.
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consider this when florida senator marco rubio delivers the republican response to president obama's state of the union address tuesday night. he will be the fourth potential gop presidential candidate to do so in five years. last year it was then-governor mitch daniels of indiana, who is now president of purdue university. but in 2012 it was paul ryan, 2010 virginia governor bob mcdonnell, and in 2009 louisiana governor bobby jindal. and you can expect rubio, ryan, mcdonnell, and jindal all to start showing up in iowa before long ahead of the 2016 iowa caucuses. we'll be right back. we're back. new jersey governor chris christie can't seem to stop talking about his weight, and maybe he wants it that way. first, christie poked fun at his weight this week with davi w.
new jersey governor chris christie can't seem to stop talking about his weight, and maybe he wants it that way. first, christie poked fun at his weight this week with david letterman. >> i'm basically the healthiest fat guy you have ever seen in your life. >> president clinton's former white house doctor, connie mariano, didn't find his joke funny. she told cnn she's worried christie could die in office because he's so overweight. >> i worry that he may have a heart attack, he may have a stroke. it's almost like a time bomb waiting to happen. >> the doctor's comment didn't sit well with the tough talking new jersey governor.
he pounded her for it. >> i find it fascinating that a doctor in arizona who has never met me, never examined me, never reviewed my medical history or records, knows nothing about my family history could make a diagnosis from 2,400 miles away. she must be a genius. it's completely irresponsible, completely irresponsible. my children saw that last night, and she sat there on tv and said i'm afraid he's going to die in office. my 12-year-old son comes to me last night and says, dad, are you going to die? she should shut up. >> so why is governor christie talking about his weight now? is christie trying to own his weight issue because he thinks it might be a huge obstacle if he decides to run in 2016? with me, steve kornacki co-host of "the cycle" and susan milligan. did the doctor cross a line?
>> do you think the man doesn't know he's fat? he knows he's fat. he has a mirror. i'm sure he has a scale. it was out of line. she hadn't examined him. again, think this has anything to do health. i think this has to do with the idea that people think that very overweight people are somehow undisciplined or lazy and anyone has seen governor christie perform during hurricane sandy and also during hurricane irene realizes that that's not the case. i have no idea why people think it's okay to just make these comments about someone's size, particularly making a medical judgment. >> steve, it was in my view totally inappropriate to reference the possibility of him dying in office. but who among us -- i certainly have -- has not taken a look at him and said, i hope he's well. it's a lot of weight to carry on that frame. >> yeah. no, that's true. but i think what susan said there is true. look, everybody, it's obvious to anybody who looks at him, it's one of the first things anybody it looks at him obviously is going to notice. it's going to be on everybody's mind. the risk for whether it's this
doctor, if you want to talk about his political opponents. i saw this in new jersey when he ran for governor in 2009. the risk of drawing attention to it is it's just always going to backfire on you because when he jokes about it himself he's coming across as self-deprecating. he's sort of joking about the obvious. people i think understand and appreciate that. when anybody else draws attention to it, it always looks like a coy or a sneaky way, too cute way of trying to score a cheap shot against him. remember the democrats, you know, when he ran for governor in 2009, they put this ad on with a very flattering shot and they talked about how he was throwing his weight around. i remember them talking privately off the record and there was a lot of snickering, this is really cute what we did here. i really think that kind of stuff backfired on him when they ran against him three years ago, four years ago. >> sups, i would attest to what steve said because i can remember when jon corzine ran ads that in slow motion 140ed both chris christie getting out of a car and also moving around a desk and chair to ak sent
wai accentuate that issue. i think it's an attribute, especially in new jersey because it establishes his bona fides as the everyman. he is not the blow dried politician. >> public humiliation can certainly be a motivating factor. i can say what gets me to the gym every day is i live in fear of being an anonymous butt on national tv in an obesity story. say hey, i have an outfit like that, and you realize it's you kind of waddling down the street. maybe that can have an effect and he can sort of think about this and think about how it comes across. but at the same time we all i think have that sense of just self-consciousness and the idea that just because you're in public life people are going to be making these very rude and very hurtful comments about his weight. i mean, this is not -- this is a human being we're talking about here. i think absolutely that it works well for him. at least in the state of new jersey. >> steve, anything to the timing of this? is there anything to that school of thought that says he wants this publicly litigated now so that as he makes up his mind with regard to 2016 he's dealt
with it? >> yeah. i don't even know if it's that as much as hey, if you go on letterman you're going to joke around and this is the thing you're going to joke around about and then the doctor comes out and she does her thing. i think it's more sort of a -- more sort of a preview for him of what he's in store for. i know he went through this in new jersey in 2009 but obviously that's a smaller scale in terms of the media scrutiny. maybe it's a preview for him of what he'd be in for. because we'd have these episodes a lot if he got in a national race. it's for him to sit there and say do i want to go through this, do i want doctors going on tv and talking about my weight? because i don't think this will be the first one if he runs for president. >> i agree with both of you. and i agree with susan in particular that there's blowback to those who try and use this as some kind of an issue. thank you, steve kornacki. thank you, susan milligan. it's nice to have you here. when we return, allow me to finish with the case for drones. it all comes down to keeping americans safe. you're watching "hardball," the place for politics. i'm lorenzo. i work for 47 different companies.
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let me finish tonight with this. the debate over whether to use deadly force against an american who is on foreign soil and tied to al qaeda. that sounds like a hypothetical straight out of my constitutional law class in my first year of law school. i can just picture us going back and forth over whether killing
an american in these circumstances violated the fourth amendment's protection against unlawful seizure or the fifth amendment's due process clause. but this is no academic exercise. this is hardball on a world stage. and the safety of americans is at stake. i read the 16-page undated and unsigned justice department white paper with great interest, especially where it said that "targeting a member of an enemy force who poses an imminent threat of violent attack to the united states is not unlawful, it is a lawful act of national self-defense." national self-defense would seem to describe the case of anwar al awlaki. a citizen by virtue of his birth in new mexico in 1971. al awlaki has been linked through e-mails with major malik hasan, the army psychiatrist who allegedly killed 13 people at ft. hood in texas. he was also linked to the so-called underwear bomber who tried to blow up an airplane bound for detroit back on christmas in 2010.
and faisal shaz ad. the guy who tried to set off a car bomb in times square in the spring of 2010. moreover, al awlaki had ties to at least two of the 9/11 hijackers. so what's a commander in chief to do when someone american by birth inspires others to kill innocent americans? we know that this commander in chief gave the order to take him out, which was done with a drone in yemen on september 30, 2011. president obama's decision reminds me of this story. in 1955 the israeli philosopher yisha leibovitz wrote a letter to david ben gurion, israel's first prime minister, in which he complained about innocent palestinians killed during israeli operations. ben gurion then replied, "i received your letter and i do not agree with you. were all the human ideals to be given to me on the one hand and israeli security on the other, i would choose israeli security because while it is good that